McLean soccer defeats Langley 2-1 to advance to district finals

Goals from Ada Karatepe and Gage Lyons and timely saves from Dillon Prestige push Highlanders to championship game

The McLean Highlanders met their rivals, the Langley Saxons, on a brisk Wednesday night for a match that held a spot in the district title game on the line. McLean, fresh off of a 7-2 victory over the Marshall Statesmen, was the home team and enjoyed a large crowd as they faced the Saxons, who entered the game after a 2-0 win over the Washington-Liberty Generals. The Highlanders, who defeated Langley during the regular season, always hold their contests with the Saxons to the highest regard.
“[The first win] only helped for the district standings,” senior captain Aram Najarian said. “Beating Langley, especially after they won states last year, it’s our way to show that this hasn’t been a one-sided affair.”

The fact that a win would place them in the district championship was not lost on McLean. Throughout the season, the Highlanders have been chomping at the bit to get a chance to avenge the 2022 squad, which came up short of bringing home any titles despite being one of the best teams in McLean’s recent history.

“We really [wanted] to win this game and move on to district finals,” Najarian said. “[To] bring home, for the first time in years, the district banner would be a great feeling to have.”

The game started off hot, with both sides getting a great goal opportunity which just missed—McLean senior Gage Lyons, the Liberty District player of the year, grimaced as one of his strikes clanged off of the far post, keeping the score knotted at zero. McLean’s crowd went into an uproar when sophomore Ada Karatepe fell down for what looked like a surefire penalty kick, but the call was actually a yellow card against Karatepe for embellishment.

It didn’t take long for Karatepe to make an impact play after the call. When Lyons was forced to the ground, McLean was awarded a free kick, which Karatepe smoothly slotted in to give the Highlanders the 1-0 lead.

“The keeper was all the way to the post and I said ‘Oh, it’s open, let me shoot it there,’ and it went in,” Karatepe said.
The momentum swung in McLean’s favor after the goal, with Langley’s consistent attack thrown to the wayside in favor of a game where McLean began to dominate the possession of the ball. The first half ended in a 1-0 McLean lead, which would stay well into the second half, when Lyons did what earned him the player of the year award, finding the back of the net to double the lead, 2-0. The insurance only lasted for so long, as three minutes later a scrum in front of the McLean net ended with a Langley goal to make it a 2-1 game.

Because the lead was a precarious one, McLean shifted into a defensive position. As a result, Langley got more chances, and the Highlanders intended on mitigating those chances. Much to the detriment of the cardiovascular health of McLean fans, Langley poured on shot after shot, which the senior goalkeeper Dillon Prestige stoically and rhythmically deflected. In particular, Prestige had a stunning leg save to prevent a seemingly unstoppable shot from just outside of the net that would have tied the game. With their best chances stymied by the Highlanders, the Saxons did not have enough steam to make a final push, and McLean held on to a 2-1 victory.

“It’s exactly what we planned, and it’s exactly what we are working towards this whole season,” head coach Leland Jameson said. “We love to beat Langley. Every time, it’s the best win.”

McLean will take on the Herndon Hornets for the district championship on May 19 at Herndon High. Although the Hornets defeated McLean 3-2 early in the year, the Highlanders are not fazed at the concept of a rematch.

“Press, dominate, control the game,” Jameson said. “[It’s the same] way we always do. Every match, we approach the same way.”